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Monday, January 18, 2016

Compatibility Testing and PC Gaming Pain

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - Testing is hard enough. Testing for gaming computers is a nightmare.

Once upon a time, or about three weeks ago, KoopaTV released Capture the Confederate Flag on the PC to the world. It won KoopaTV's Best PC Game of 2015 award shortly after. Unfortunately, the game was met with protest. Not over its subject matter, but over its...system requirements? Detractors began calling it “Capture the Confederate Lag”, because nowhere on the game page does it give system requirements.

As a result, people with really bad computers (such as off-the-shelf laptops) didn't have the best experience they could have with the game. This made people believe that the game was bad, and people across the Internet began to question if KoopaTV's Game of THAT Year decision-making process was... rigged.

Most assuredly not! But people have their doubts, and it stems from their compatibility issues.

This is a problem for anyone that develops games for the PC!

There are almost infinite permutations of computer parts with operating systems. All of these permutations can affect the compatibility of the game! GPU/video card, CPU, RAM, disk space available, sound card, whatever. If it's browser-based, then hey, you got all the different browsers to test on too. All of those can vary on machines and may be subpar for what the game requires. Big companies can afford compatibility tests with a variety of machines, but even they don't try to test every combination because that'd be stupid. They just try to find the minimum required specs and recommended specs.

Do most people know how their hardware holds up compared to other hardware? The specs of their particular hardware? Hardcore hardware PC gamers say they know, but what about the simple casual? I mean, I sure don't know this stuff.

Compatibility testing consoles vs PCs computer gaming hardware videogames
Which would you rather test?
(Xbox) One console compatibility or a zillion different computer combinations?

Compare to console gaming — rather than limitless SKUs, there's basically... one per console, and a handful if you're multiplatform. There's only one Wii U you gotta test on. There's like five different 3DSs though but only really two (New and everything before New) you really gotta test. Things are significantly more simpler. If you buy a PlayStation 4 game, you don't have to worry if your PlayStation 4 is good enough for it. It can play it. Sony did their own test of it before the game's launch and they approved.

So the platform manufacturers assure that the game works on the console. But there's no company advocating for your individual PC set-up. You're on your own. At least there are resources out there, like Can You RUN It?.

And if you're an indie or small developer without all these PC resources? Usually, game developers only have access to really awesome computers (to develop the games with) and don't run the gamut of minimum garbage. I know from my experience that I only initially tested Capture the Confederate Flag on my desktop which found no issues.

When I asked other people to beta-test the game, I got their feedback and focused on the gameplay and glitches, not hardware compatibility. I didn't even bother asking for their hardware specs. Maybe I should've, but if I did, it's not like I'd know what the hell it means. I'm a tech writer first and foremost, not a tech nerd.

I did research on what could be causing Capture the Confederate Flag to perform worse, and it basically has to do with graphical effects, the GPU, and something Adobe did regarding something called Stage3D that you can read about here. So I worked to reduce those and... 

I came up with this. That's a patched and less laggy version of Capture the Confederate Flag.

Example of changes:
Instead of a pixelated effect, there are new sprites made for when enemies have momentary invincibility.

Have fun? I did get a crappy laptop and tested it on that, and while it might not be totally perfect... it's better. I still can't give you specs, though. My best advice is to close superfluous programs and don't open any while you play. Multitasking sucks anyway.

Ludwig made up the “Capture the Confederate Lag” bit, and he probably shouldn't create catchy contemptuous cognomens towards his own stuff. Oh well. At least it's clever. Ludwig is steadfastly a console gamer and is probably biased here. Feel free to disagree with him, if you can.

Making your PC-game future-proof for future compatibility is also a challenge, one that can take years after the fact!


  1. Yay so ill finally be able to play it and record it again XD
    (When I get home lol)

    1. Well, play it before recording it and let me know if scary laggy stuff happens.

  2. I should try this XD looks funny lol

  3. Played the version with less lag. Got farther than before.

    1. Are you saying that it has less lag because that's what it's labeled, or did it have less lag based on your personal experience?

    2. ...Well I was hoping you'd answer "the latter" but I guess "Both" encompasses that!

  4. Does every KoopaTV reader have a horrible PC?


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